John Appleyard is one of those people who spends a great deal of his time making people feel better about themselves. I have always felt he never received the recognition from healthcare that he should have received.But if you talk to John, he harbors no regrets or animosity, and continues to go about his life with an abundance of joy. I don’t think he has a jealous bone in his body. He loves his country, he loves the healthcare industry, he loves family and friends, and he loves the Chicago Cubs.
I first met him at an American Hospital Association annual meeting in Montreal back in the late 1970s. Someone had come up to me and told me that a Mr. Appleyard was telling people at the meeting that the one magazine everyone should be reading was Modern Healthcare. In those days the magazine had only been published under the Crain Communications, Inc. banner for about three years. It was really struggling financially and its future was very much in doubt. As publisher, I was spending most of my time calling on suppliers, attempting to get them to advertise in the magazine. But Modern Healthcare at that time was not anywhere near as prominent in the industry as it is today, so when anyone would give the magazine a verbal endorsement I was always delighted to hear about it. I didn’t know who John Appleyard was, but believe me, I soon found out all I could about him.
At the time John was president of an organization called the Healthcare Research & Development Institute. HRDI was one of the more prestigious organizations in healthcare. Its members were top executives of major healthcare systems and hospitals, all of them active in the American Hospital Association, the American College of Healthcare Executives and many other powerful healthcare organizations. Given the challenges I was facing at the time, I am sure you will understand just how anxious I was to meet this Mr. Appleyard!
It didn't take long for that to happen. John came to Modern Healthcare’s Chicago headquarters. When I first met him, I was struck by his integrity, humility and sense of humor. In fact, John often came to Chicago for visits because he is from the area, attending high school there and then attending Northwestern University in suburban Evanston, Ill. But most importantly, as I got to know John better, it became quite apparent that the major reason John would come to Chicago was to see his beloved Cubs. I don’t know how it happens or even if he is conscious of it, but if you meet John anywhere and at any time the conversation somehow invariably ends up on the subject of the Chicago Cubs.
John has told me all kinds of stories about the Cubs and the many stars and characters that played for the franchise over the decades. John got his love for the game early and wound up playing for Northwestern, where he was on the squad with football legend Otto Graham. When I asked John what kind of a baseball player Graham was he told me, “He was a great defensive player, but he couldn’t hit a curve ball.”
At Northwestern, John pursued a liberal arts degree with a major in journalism and a minor in history. After graduation he served in World War II. During the few months of the war in Europe, he was assigned to the 114th Evacuation Hospital. When the war ended, he was posted for a special term at Oxford University-Shrivenham in England. He would finish up his college career by graduating from the University of Delaware.
Later, John found a job with the Armstrong Cork Co., which in those days was considered one of the top corporate conglomerates in the nation. At Armstrong, he worked in three locations, including Pensacola, Fla., which would serve as a defining place in John’s life. In 1957 he, his wife Eleanor, his daughter Diane and his son Richard settled in Pensacola, where John started an advertising agency that recently celebrated its 51st anniversary. (He stepped down from active involvement in the agency in 1992.)
John has always loved the printed word and has written countless articles and books. Those writings included two novels and more than 100 published mystery stories. As his career and life progressed, he took great interest in American history and government. And because of his interest and his contributions to the Pensacola region, he has received over 100 awards, including many from the Freedom Foundation.
John Appleyard has made a major contribution to healthcare because of his capable and dedicated stewardship of Healthcare Research and Development Institute (HRDI), which became one of the major healthcare think tanks. Its research has had major policy implications for the healthcare industry. The organization also gave guidance to healthcare suppliers on the manufacturing and development of new products and services that would end up ensuring patients received state-of-the-art care.
While making major contributions to healthcare and the care of patients, John was always ready to deflect any credit that came his way. He was as humble as could be. Near the end of his career, John would turn the leadership of HRDI over to his daughter, Diane. Later the organization would change direction under her leadership, but it is still considered an influential research group.
In my 33 years as publisher of Modern Healthcare John Appleyard was one of the individuals who made a great impact on my personal and professional life, as well as the lives of so many others he came into contact with. As a matter of fact, he will always be a member of my personal Hall of Fame. He’s special!